A century after it was founded as a dairy farm in what was then an Oregon logging town, Zenger Farm today is a 6-acre working farm adjoining a 10-acre wetland in the center of urban Portland. Operated as a nonprofit, the farm provides a host of programs to underprivileged kids and adults that promote food awareness, healthy eating, and sustainable agriculture. As the farm embarks this year on a major fundraising campaign to expand its mission, Davis Wright Tremaine has been providing pro bono services, and helping raise the farm’s visibility.
Zenger Farm was the featured philanthropy partner at DWT’s first annual Farm to Label food and beverage summit, held in Portland in May, putting the nonprofit in front of 200 leading food industry executives. The farm was a perfect beneficiary to spotlight at the national event, says Jesse Lyon, chair of DWT’s food and beverage practice, and lead organizer of Farm to Label. “They’re an awesome community organization,” says Lyon. “And they can be a model for similar organizations in the rest of the country.”
In 2011, Zenger Farm was among the first farms in the country to pilot an effort to receive payments for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce shares from the USDA’s Sustainable Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known colloquially as the “food stamp” program). The farm has since published an online guide to best practices and trained hundreds of other farms across the country in how to work successfully under SNAP guidelines, and provide farm-fresh, healthy produce for needy families in a cost-effective way.
Lyon, who was himself raised on an Eastern Washington farm, joined Zenger Farm’s board of directors last year. “Even though I’m now a big-city lawyer, I appreciate Zenger Farm’s underlying values,” says Lyon. “All of us believe healthy food should be for everybody.”
In addition to Lyon’s service on the board, numerous other attorneys in DWT’s Portland office office have provided pro bono legal work for Zenger Farm, including Sheila Fox Morrison, who has helped with trademark issues; Marisa Meltebeke, who has worked on gift-acceptance policies and donor agreements; Chrys Martin and summer associate Kalia Bush, who worked on employee and volunteer handbook projects for the farm; and Phil Grillo and John Benazzi, who have helped with real estate and land use issues.
Zenger Farm is currently looking to raise $1.9 M to create an Urban Grange—with classrooms, commercial kitchen space, and work space—that will allow it to double the number of people it serves. To learn more, go to ZengerFarm.org.